Tips on how to mix vocals and put some effects like a professional

You can read this tutorial for more details on this technique.

Third Principle: EQ first before Compress

Believe it or not, a vocal does not need serious effects like other instruments. The simpler your effects used, the better will be the produced vocals. It is highly important to EQ first using this setting:

Cut 200 Hz (high pass filter)= -6dB
Boost 3000Hz Q = 1 = 3dB
Boost 15000Hz Q = 1 = 3dB

Take note that if you take the summation of cut and boost, it is literally equal to zero. So if you cut 6dB and I boost 6dB, it does not change the volume. The objective is to preserve the volume by not doing drastic EQ changes.

However, concentrating your EQ work on vocals alone does not make your overall mix sound good. You need to pay attention to other instruments in your mix in such a way they do not compete with the vocal frequency range. You need to drill a hole in other instruments frequency range occupied by the vocals. This would make the vocals to sit properly in the mix.

In this case, I would “strongly recommend” that you read this guide on complete EQ settings to start when doing audio mixing. It contains all starting EQ tips for the most common musical instruments used in the mix. By working on that, you can obtain a very clear vocal in your mix while not compromising the sound quality of your other instruments.

For compression, I’ve shared some techniques here pertaining to vocal compression tips. Personally I like the Sony Wave hammer plug-in in Adobe audio, presets to voice. It produces some of my finest mixed vocals.

Also, I am using Waves C4 compressor and pop vocal preset. It simplifies all compression settings you need to do for your vocals.

Fourth principle: Be very conservative with reverb

Frankly, the mix vocals I used has a very low amounts of reverb. This could be due to the fact that I am mixing for rock, country and pop which audible reverb is not very popular unlike in other genre.

But not only that, having low amounts of reverb makes the vocals stood up and sounds very strong (in your face). You can easily captivate the listener with strong vocals with low amounts of reverb. I use Sony ExpressFX Reverb, set to Plate reverbs. Plate reverbs is highly recommended for vocals and only set it:

Room size: 30
Liveliness: 10~15
%Original (dry mixing) = 85%~90%
%Reverb = 15%~10%

Also I use reverb plug-ins from Waves and Focusrite, they do sound great and I would recommend setting the wet percentage at 30% to 40% at a start. But this plug-ins are not free, also if you buy some Focusrite audio interface, you can get a free Focusrite plug-in suite that includes the reverb plug-in.

One great way of learning how to apply reverberation effects is to listen to an actual sample. You can read this tutorial adding vocal reverb. It contains some important illustration and audio samples about how vocals could change with different reverb settings.

Then once you apply some setting; listen very carefully to the mix and avoid over-doing the implementation of reverb. Sometimes a small reverb is enough, in some applications moderate reverb is also necessary. One of the golden rules of implementing reverb on vocal mixing are as follows:

a.) Very slow ballads (slow tempo songs) – moderate reverb.
b.) Fast tempo songs (punk rock, alternative music, country music, etc.) – low reverb or even no reverb. Feel free to experiment what sounds appropriate for the mix.
c.) Moderate tempo – moderate amounts of reverb.

Do not be obsessed with reverb settings, use your ears to judge the setting. It is also important that you consider the blending of vocals and its reverberation with the rest of the instruments in the mix. You cannot implement the same reverb settings on all tracks otherwise it would sound squashed and muddy.

In this case, you should learn how to apply reverb to a mix properly. You can read a tutorial about this topic here. And then you will learn that different instruments need different reverb settings. It is being influenced by the following factors:

a.) The track location in the stereo field
b.) Tempo of the song,
c.) Genre
d.) Natural frequency of the instruments.

Content last updated on October 22, 2012